A new report about global spending on education highlights the disparities between wealthy countries and the developing world. According to the “Global Education Digest 2007,” published by Unesco, the United Nations’ education-and-science agency, the United States spends the most on education, with a public education budget “close to that of all governments in six regions combined: the Arab States, Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.”
The United States accounts for 28 percent of the global education budget but just 4 percent of the world’s children and young people, an imbalance “mainly due to the large numbers of university students and the relatively high costs associated with this level of education.”
The report examines spending from primary schools to universities. In many countries, especially poorer ones, those levels compete against each other, with universities and high schools vying for the same money as primary schools, the report says.
The report focuses not just on public spending on education, but also on how private resources factor into education spending, a phenomenon that becomes more pronounced in higher education than at lower levels. In some countries, such as South Korea, relatively low public spending per university student is largely offset by private financing.
In most countries, private universities are independent, but in four of the 28 nations whose data the report examined — Botswana, the Netherlands, Senegal, and Zimbabwe — they are financed by the government as well. In the remaining 24 countries, universities “operate with less than one-half of their core funding provided by the state.” —Aisha Labi